Continuity of conscience in the Western sanctuary

SAN FRANCISCO — Without an understanding of the deep heritage of African-Americans in San Francisco, from the earliest Spanish explorers, its black residents are hampered from achieving their own personal dreams, according to an expert on California history.

John William Templeton, author of the new textbook Come to the Water: Sharing the Rich Black Experience in San Francisco and Cakewalk: an historical novel about the unsung creators of jazz music, presents an address Continuity of Conscience in the Western Sanctuary at noon today for Celebrating Black American History at the Hotel Whitcomb.

The event is a volunteer program organized for the past eight years by a committee of San Francisco Public Utilities Commission employees which has grown to an expected audience of 400.

“If you’re black in America, you spend a lot of emotional energy feeling that you don’t belong and attempting to prove that you do belong,” says Templeton. “If you’re black in San Francisco, you feel compelled to explain why you’re even here—sometimes with your arms spread out against a wall.”

He will point out that California acknowledges on March 5 Black American Day to commemorate the death of Crispus Attucks in the Boston Massacre in 1770, the same year that black conquistadors participated in the Portola expedition.

Next week, Gerald A. Lawson will be recognized at the International Game Developers Association for inventing the first reloadable video game console as a result of Templeton’s documentary Freedom Riders of the Cutting Edge.

“That means members of Blacks in Gaming will not have to explain why they’re there,” adds Templeton.

For educators, students and parents, Templeton has created an online resource to localize the national theme of Black History Month, African-Americans and the Civil War, called Gold Rush Abolitionists which can be accessed from

He has documented in a 2008 research study that fewer than one in five Califronia teachers are familiar with the state’s black heritage and know how to appropriately infuse it in classrooms to teach skills–a flaw he says is a direct cause of lower achievement for black students.

Templeton demonstrated the impact this past summer with a biotechnology magnet school serving students from southeast San Francisco.

On Saturday, Feb. 26, he presents the sixth session of a seven week series on teaching San Francisco black heritage at the southeast campus of City College of San Francisco at 1 p.m. in room 413. The campus is located at 1800 Oakdale.